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Source: Long Island Business News

Scotts Miracle-Gro fined $12.5M for toxic products

BY JOHN CALLEGARI

Posted: September 12, 2012
Originally Published: September 12, 2012

The country’s largest lawn care company has been hit with $12.5 million in fines by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after pleading guilty to both civil and criminal charges.

Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. reached a settlement with the EPA related to products the lawn company sold through 2009.

In one instance, the company recalled several lawn and garden products after it was discovered that Scotts had been selling them without proper EPA approval. Scotts officials said a former associate had created fraudulent documentation regarding the products and has pleaded guilty to federal crimes.

In addition, Scotts was forced to recall its bird seed product in 2008 after it was discovered that it had been treated with the pesticides Actellic 5E and Storcide II – chemicals prohibited by the EPA for use on wild bird food. Scotts admitted to selling over 70 million units of the bird seed for two years before recalling the product.

In addition to the $12.5 million in fines, Ohio-based Scotts last week committed to provide funding to several environmental projects as part of the settlement.

It will provide $100,000 each to the Ohio Audubon’s Important Bird Area Program, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Urban Forestry Program, the Columbus Metro-Parks Bird Habitat Enhancement Program, the Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory and the Nature Conservancy of Ohio.

Additionally, the company committed to provide at least $2 million in funds to acquire, restore, and conserve over 300 acres of land throughout Ohio in association with the Black Swamp Conservancy.

Local environmentalists lauded the ruling, which included the largest fine ever imposed under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

“Scotts intentionally mislabeled and misrepresented its products, which put public health, birds and wildlife at risk,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Frankly, we are sickened by this corporate criminality. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that using a toxic chemical in bird seed will kill birds, what it takes is indifference to the harm they would cause.”

In a released statement, Scotts officials said the incident was the result of confusion regarding the chemical and its safety.

“The wild bird food products had been treated with pest control additives to avoid insect infestation, which is a standard practice in the wild bird food industry and one that predated Scotts’ acquisition of these products from Gutwein & Co. Inc. in 2005,” said Jim Hagedorn, chairman and CEO of Scotts. “In this particular case, while the pest control additives had been approved for use on certain stored grains that can be processed for human and/or animal consumption, they were not approved for use on wild bird food products.”